associate, adj. and n.

paul johnson paulzjoh at MTNHOME.COM
Fri Jun 8 14:46:12 UTC 2012

Paul Johnson
And the Wal Mart associates are among the untouchables of the associate

On 6/8/2012 9:13 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> At 6/8/2012 02:27 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> I was on the T today and spotted someone with a hospital ID that read
>> "ICU Patient Care Associate". And I thought, "That's a nice euphemism."
>> Then it occurred to me that "associate" is one of the more common
>> current business euphemisms. It replaces "clerk", "secretary",
>> "orderly", "front man", etc. If you go to a car dealership for an oil
>> change, you're greeted by a "service associate". You want your bed pan
>> changed in a hospital, you call a "patient care associate". You want to
>> archive you paperwork from the latest transaction, you call the filing
>> associate. If you agree to something from a telemarketing call, you are
>> transferred to the caller's "associate" to take down your formal
>> information (the only case among the rest where the position may not be
>> hierarchical--merely different duties). And if you want to mail
>> something from your office building, you give it to the mail-room
>> associate. This does not even include the associates in law firms. Then,
>> there is the adjectival version. If you're not a full professor, you
>> can't get tenure unless you've achieved the associate professor status
>> (that is, assistant professors are sub-par, in some gradation scheme).
>> If you work for a publisher, but not in charge of much of anything,
>> you're an associate book editor--and you report to the book editor. If
>> you do. on-site estimation work for an insurance company, but are not
>> authorized to sign the paperwork, you're an associate adjustor.
>> I can keep going, but one thing all these uses of "associate" in either
>> noun or adjective version have in common is that they all represent
>> subordinate positions--they are clearly inferior to other positions that
>> come without the "associate" tag.
> Victor, I see "associate" as a term intended to convey a higher
> status than some other position/term -- e.g., a "mailroom associate"
> is more prestigious than a "mailroom clerk".  I agree that the
> "associate" positions are inferior to other positions -- but so is
> everyone inferior to someone else, except the head man/woman.  And I
> wonder how frequently the "associate" is attached to the term X for
> some position so that it becomes "X associate", clearly inferior to a
> just plain X.  That is, X morphs into Y -- e.g., "nurse" (or perhaps
> "orderly") into "patient care (associate)".  So the position may be
> the same, have the same duties, but it sounds more prestigious.
> In the case of an "associate" professor, that position is actually,
> as you note, *superior* to another position, the "assistant" professor.
> So perhaps the sense one wants in a dictionary is the *pretension*
> rather than the inferiority.
> Joel
>> The "patient care associates" are
>> subordinate to nurses. The law firm associates are subordinate to
>> partners. And I've already mentioned the other ones. In the past,
>> "associate" meant a position that is sideways, so to speak, from your
>> own. Now it means sideways and downward.
>> Nothing of the sort can be found in the OED. All the definitions
>> there--and there is only one article that includes both adj. and n.--are
>> more collegial positions than subordinate ones. Law firm associate does
>> not merit a separate entry--which is to say, it does not have one at
>> all.
>> Associate, adj. and n.
>>> A. adj. = associated, adj.
>>> 1. Joined in companionship, function, or dignity.
>>> 2. Joined in league, allied, confederate.
>>> 3. United in the same group or category, allied; concomitant.
>>> B. n. [the adj. used absolutely.]
>>> 1. One who is united to another by community of interest, and shares
>>> with him in enterprise, business, or action; a partner, comrade,
>>> companion.
>>> 2. A companion in arms, ally, confederate.
>>> 3. One who shares an office or position of authority with another; a
>>> colleague, coadjutor. spec. An officer of the Superior Courts of
>>> Common Law in England, 'whose duties are to superintend the entering
>>> of causes, to attend sittings at nisi prius, and there receive and
>>> enter verdicts,' etc. (Warton.)
>>> 4. One who is frequently in company with another, on terms of social
>>> equality and intimacy; an intimate acquaintance, companion, mate.
>>> 5. One who belongs to an association or institution in a subordinate
>>> degree of membership, without the honours and privileges of a full
>>> member or 'Fellow.'
>>> 6. A thing placed or found in conjunction with another.
>>> 7. /Psychol/. An idea, or other mental content, connected with another
>>> by any of the forms of association.
>> All of these suggestion something in partnership, companionship,
>> intimacy, confederacy, conjunction. Not one suggests any kind of
>> hierarchical relationship or clerical position. This is not surprising,
>> as only two of the entries A.1. and B.7. have any examples past
>> 1880--and both are coincidentally from 1931.
>> VS-)
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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